Interview Stuart Tolley Art Director & Graphic Designer

It’s a great pleasure today to bring our readers another magnificent interview from Art Director & Graphic Designer Stuart Tolley. Stuart graciously gave us his time to put together another wonderful Q & A session to discuss; Transmission, clients, economic climate’s effect on design, social media and more.

Stuart has a varied and expansive background in many areas of design, and it was a great privelidge to open up his knowledge in lots of areas of design and business. Want to check out Stuart on Twitter @stuarttolley and you can visit his website

Want to be interviewed? Recommend us an interviewee we should feature on Design Juices? Get in touch today so we can share them all with our great readers and fans.

Firstly, can you please give our readers a brief overview as to who you are and what your background in the creative industry is.

Hi, my name is Stuart Tolley and my background is art direction and graphic design, predominantly in the style magazine industry. I have worked full time on cult, independent titles such as Sleazenation and also with publishing giants like the Independent on Saturday Magazine, where I was the acting art director, and Esquire UK as a senior designer. I got tired of working in the repetitive structure of newsstand magazines and joined Show Media, where I art directed bespoke publishing projects for French Connection, TagHeuer and Schweppes.

However, it was never my intention to just be a magazine designer and I was very conscious of being typecast. With this in mind I took on a lot of side projects and branched out into different formats and styles, such as book cover design and illustration. The need for change grew and I decided to take a massive risk and travel the world for a year. This is something I have never regretted.

What is Transmisson to readers who may not have heard of your company before? Where could we find transmission across the web?

Transmission is an art direction and graphic design studio which I formed in 2009, after a desire to work independently. There are a few of us working on a wide variety of projects for clients in the entertainment, lifestyle, charitable and publishing industries. We approach every project through a series of research, development and art direction which is always undertaken in-house. When the project suits we collaborate with other individuals or companies whose work we admire and recognise they can bring in specific skills and experience. This collective approach allows us to take on a diverse range of jobs and we believe leads to a more original and creative outcome.

Over the last two years we have been very fortunate to work with some amazing artists while curating exhibitions, directing motion graphics, art directing magazines, illustrating book covers and designing visual culture books. This work has been featured in the design press, in design reference books and on creative blogs. We also enjoy working on self initiated projects and often exhibit at galleries and sell original artwork through online stores. We have just completed a range of limited edition screenprinted t-shirts, which are available to buy through our website. Our complete portfolio can be viewed at: and our limited edition prints, t-shirts can be found at: , and

Has there been a particular project or client you found to be the highlight of your career so far?

Happily I have worked on a number of interesting projects, so it is hard to single out just one. Some jobs are enjoyable because of the creative freedom, whereas others signify a shift in direction and expertise. Since forming Transmission a highlight is working with clients that reflect my interests in popular culture, music, film, fashion and art. This is very important to me.

If I had to chose one highlight it would be our work with the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival. This stands out as a project that was both very creative and also allowed us to develop new skills, such as motion graphics and exhibition curation. I am proud of this project and was very happy with the results. It also helped to launch Transmission, as our work featured in the design press and on numerous blogs. It was amazing to see our hard work appear as a 4 page feature and interview in the excellent Varoom magazine, which is published by the Association of Illustrators.

How has the recent economic climate affected your business?

The studio has a minimal team and a low running cost, which means we don’t have to pay a high wage bill and spiraling studio bills. This was a conscious decision when starting out, as the studio was formed right at the beginning of the downturn. Recently we have noticed a shift in projects and budgets have definitely suffered. A lot of our work came from art directing bespoke magazines, but the publishing industry has really been hit hard. We currently aren’t working on any magazine projects, which is the first time this has happened since my first job at Sleazenation.

Do you forsee a brighter future in 2011 and beyond?

I think 2011 is going to be incredibly hard work. Lots of long hours, but I really want to push the studio forward this year. So on that note I am hoping it will be a positive one.

What kind of successes have you had in recent years? Has there been any moments where you thought of leaving it behind to pursue another career?

Aside from featuring in the design press and having nice things written about our work, the biggest success is the diversity of projects we have completed. The studio now has the confidence to work on any project in any medium or format. Our work for the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival epitomises this. We created the visual direction of the festival, curated a contemporary art exhibition, commissioned 22 leading artists, organised a private view supported by Warp Records and also directed a piece of motion graphics. The exhibition gained a lot of press attention and was featured in Dazed and Confused, Varoom and Computer Arts magazines. It also featured on the BBC and multiple blogs including Creative Review and It’s Nice That.

Even when times are hard I never think about another career. I also don’t think I am employable as anything else.

How is social media used within your business?

I use Twitter (@stuarttolley) to keep followers updated with studio projects and also shout about collaborators work. I am not a fan of Facebook and MySpace so don’t have accounts with either. I am also on Linked In, but not a prolific user. The Transmission website has a news feed powered by Word Press and we keep it regularly updated.

Has it been utilised for the better, or are you still learning with this new media?

I am still learning the benefits of using social media and am a late comer to Twitter. Once I worked out how it could benefit the studio, I have enjoyed using it. I would like to learn more about using new media techniques to promote Transmission – but it can become a full time job in itself.

What were your influences in design as you grew up and went through the education of design?

While I growing up I was interested in music and the visual language surrounding subcultures. I was inspired by the aesthetics of Punk, Psychedelic and also the controversial artwork of protest graphics. While at university my influences broadened and I became interested in how to manipulate photography, particularly in the colour darkroom. Designers such as David Carson and Tomato were very popular and I discovered the photography of Robert Frank and William Eggleston. I think my love of photography directly led to employment in the magazine industry.

What advice would you offer to someone who would be looking to get into the magazine industry in a similar role to yourself?

The publishing industry has changed recently and for me the most exciting outcome has been the rise of niche and independently produced titles. So, I would advise anyone looking to join the magazine industry to gain experience at one of these titles – instead of going to a large publisher.

From my experience, working on an independent magazine means you are more likely to have an input and it’s also a chance to get thrown in at the deep end. If you are prepared to work incredibly hard, for long hours, it can be a very creative and rewarding experience.

Failing that, start your own magazine and investigate alternative methods of self publishing and distribution.

When your not working what do you do to recharge your batteries?

I live in Brighton and the studio is 2 minutes away from the beach, so it’s easy to unwind there. I guess I am a bit of a Brighton cliche as I also own a classic VW campervan. I go away for weekends with my girlfriend as often as possible and feel instantly relaxed.

Again we offer our thanks to Stuart for taking his time out to put this interview together today, Check him out @stuarttolley and his studio site this is tranmission.